Hidden Assets: Prune your credit cards
Simplify your life, remove the temptation to charge and reduce the risk of ID theft. Here's how.
By Carla Fried, Money Magazine

(MONEY Magazine) -- What's in your wallet? Probably too many credit cards. It's not uncommon for Americans to tote around seven to nine cards, way more than they really need.

Beyond eliminating the temptation to charge, getting rid of idle cards can be a smart safety move; the fewer accounts you have, the fewer chances you have of becoming an ID theft statistic.

You may be holding on to unused cards because you've heard that canceling them would wipe out your "history," sending your credit score south.

It's okay to let go. While it is smart to keep the card you've had the longest, you can close down others without incurring serious damage.

The only exception is if you carry a balance. A key factor behind your credit score is your debt-to-available-credit ratio.

Let's go to the numbers: Say you have a $2,000 card balance and $20,000 worth of credit lines on four cards, for a low 10 percent debt-to-credit ratio. If you cancel three cards and shrink your available credit to $5,000, your ratio scoots up to 40 percent.

One fix is to call up the issuer you're sticking with and ask for a higher credit limit. A safer strategy is to pay down your balances before canceling a card.

7 Steps to Uncover Hidden Assets:

1. Cash in old savings bonds

2. Boost your savings rate

3. Stop paying for unneeded life insurance

4. Consolidate your retirement accounts

5. Prune your credit cards

6. Unload unused gift cards

7. Finally sell that lousy investment  Top of page

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